BOLTON has the second highest covid-19 rate in the country.

Now Bolton's public health officers are urgently trying to find out why the infection rate has rocketed.

As of Tuesday, only Hyndburn's infection rate was higher.

Bolton's rate was up from 46.3 to 73.4, with 211 new cases ­— and the borough was in the top five to record the biggest week-on-week rises.

Director of public health at Bolton Council, Dr Helen Lowey said: “We are aware of a recent increase in covid cases in the borough, and a plan is in place to help us understand the causes behind this and prevent further spread.

“It remains critically important that residents continue to follow the covid safety measures by washing their hands regularly, wearing a face covering, maintaining social distance and keeping areas well ventilated.”

The Bolton News understands that the 'r' rate is 2.8.

The R number is a way of rating coronavirus or any disease's ability to spread.

R is the number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, on average.

If the R value is higher than one, then the number of cases keeps increasing.

But if the R number is lower the disease will eventually stop spreading.

Cllr Nick Peel, leader of Bolton's Labour group, said: "The figures are very worrying.

"It is so important that people do not let their guard down when we are so close to the end of lockdown.

"If this trend in rising infections continues, there is a possibility that the government could once again impose separate restrictions on Bolton, as they did last time.

"If that happens, it would be the tipping point for many struggling businesses."

At the end of March, we reported that a worker at Wingates Industrial Estate in Westhoughton tested positive for the South African variant. This led to public health bosses working with NHS Test and Trace to carry out surge testing at the site to stay on top of cases.

And two weeks ago, we discovered that cases of the Indian variant had been found in the borough. The five areas with the biggest week-on-week rises are Hyndburn, Bolton, Wellingborough, South Holland and Blackburn with Darwen.

The country is on a roadmap out of lockdown restrictions, but the Prime Minister has warned that the easing of restrictions is subject to the data and covid infection rates. The government announced today a multimillion-pound investment in testing will help the UK stay “one step ahead” of coronavirus and any new variants.